Severely autistic boy needs new heart: 'He typed that he was scared to die'

Severely autistic boy needs new heart: 'He typed that he was scared to die'

EUGENE, Ore. - Lief O'Neill's parents wait by his hospital bed in Palo Alto, Calif., as their son awaits a heart transplant.

"I really wouldn't want to be in his position, but he's such a champ about it," said Sage Rauenzahn, Lief's big brother.

While his brother awaits news on a new heart, Rauenzahn trims trees at the Great Mist lot in south Eugene. He helps run the family business while they're away.

"I want my brother to get a heart by within a year," he said.

Family friend Tiffany Mamalove said Lief has been denied his heart transplant twice because of his severe autism.

"The family was told that yeah there was fear about compliance issues and participating in recovery," she told KVAL News.

Although non-verbal, family and friends said Lief is quite articulate. He communicates through typing on this keyboard.

His most notable quote: "To type is to love."

His most recent quote?

"He typed that he was scared to die," said Patricia Parsons, Lief's grandmother.

When Stanford University Children's Hospital heard Lief's story, they flew him down. Lief is now the youngest person ever to receive a HeartMate.

Parsons said the device is Lief's bridge to a heart transplant.

"It's made for adults but because he's a big, strapping 9-year-old with a big chest, the device was able to fit," she said.

Lief's wait for a new heart is expected to be about 100 days.

His brother said this wouldn't be possible without the help of others.

"It is the most amazing gathering of a community that I have ever seen," he said.